, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 19-32
Date: 04 Jan 2014

On the Mismeasurement of Impulsivity: Trait, Behavioral, and Neural Models in Alcohol Research among Adolescents and Young Adults


We review the extent to which the psychosocial trait, behavioral, and neural models of impulsivity in adolescence and young adulthood commonly used in alcohol research may be reconciled. Recent advances in the development of trait models of impulsivity have converged towards a three-trait framework of impulsigenic traits, with motivational drive (extraversion), effortful control (conscientiousness and/or constraint), and emotion dysregulation (neuroticism) at its core, which has similar developmental models in childhood. Behavioral models of impulsivity have focused on a two-factor model centered around impulsive choice versus impulse response, which seems to have little theoretical or empirical connection with trait models of impulsivity. Throughout, we review recent neuroimaging research related to trait and behavioral impulsivity. We also discuss research on how trait and behavioral impulsivity are associated with alcohol use risk and AUDs and how behavioral impulsivity is affected by alcohol use. We note significant problems in integrating trait and behavioral research, driven by the absence of a shared theoretical framework for behavioral and trait models, a general underrepresentation of developmental research, and inconsistencies in definitions of impulsivity in the literature.